Small and snappy, Subway magazine is mostly composed of Wikipedia articles with the intention of being read on the fly, wherever you are. We chat with the one man behind the publication, Erik van der Weijde, about his latest issue as it hits stands worldwide, now including North America thanks to our partner New Distribution House.
Here, Erik speaks about trimming Wikipedia articles down to their essence, how to make important decisions, and interesting facts about the history of Dr Pepper slogans, which include:
- 1960: America’s Most Misunderstood Soft Drink
- 1970-77: The Most Original Soft Drink Ever
- 1991: Just What The Doctor Ordered
- 2006: Dr Pepper, nothing better
- 2007 (Latin america only): El Dr muy bueno
Read more below.
How do you gather all these inspirations together?
I have a folder in which I collect links to Wikipedia articles I think could work for Subway and after I have invited the artists to be featured, I pull some of the articles out of that folder. Then it’s a matter of laying out the puzzle and looking for images. Sometimes I don’t have a fitting image and turn to eBay to buy one. All of the images that are not by the featured artists are in my personal archive and bought either on eBay or in thrift stores. I work on each issue for about 3 months, 4 to 5 hours a week.
Is the Subway content designed to be read in between train stations?
Yes, it should be a five-minute-fun-ride, although I don’t read that fast. When I came up with the name Subway, this idea came along. Because all articles seem to be unrelated, I wanted to reflect that in the name. Like having this underground railway system linking totally different places to each other. Think of hopping on a train in Brooklyn and then coming above ground in Times Square, places that don’t have much in common, but are part of that same city or idea.
How would you characterize your interview approach?
I wanted the artist features not to be so much about the work, but more about the people. Like a tiny slice of your social media network, compressed onto paper, or meeting your social media friends IRL and just chatting about food, or your car or whatever. There are enough magazines focusing on their work already.
What are the most difficult things to deal with while putting together such a dense and short issue?
To trim the Wikipedia articles down to a Subway essence can be hard. To find that one sentence that makes sense for Subway, but is also not too far from the actual subject. For most articles, I start with the Wiki page and try to fit it into the magazine spread over several pages. Another difficulty is that I have articles and friends to feature for the coming years already, so choosing who will go into which magazine is tough. But I make all of these decisions during my daily walk with Nina, my dog.
“This magazine is for a five-minute-fun-ride.”
Regarding issue 5, tell us about the Dr. Pepper’s slogans; they’re hilarious. Are you a heavy Dr. Pepper drinker?
I love Dr. Pepper, but I love the idea of Dr. Pepper even more. The “it-looks-like-coke-but-it’s-not” idea… Sometimes I crave a Dr. Pepper, but it’s not for sale where I live (Northeast of Brazil). That’s the reason why I included it in the magazine, because Subway is where many of my desires, wishes and fetishes are.
Tell us about the stickers article: How did you come up with the idea to do a piece on stickers? Is it true that the number of bumper of stickers and how aggressive that driver drives are correlated?
That article started with the images. One day I was buying hundreds of stickers from the '80s because of their design, and I just thought, “Stickers, Stickers, Stickers”… They’re actually a weird phenomenon. That bumper sticker part! I have no idea! I get all my ‘facts’ from Wikipedia, so if they say so, should be true!
Why did you choose to feature Tichy?
These prints are from a Swiss Tichy Foundation and I’m just a big fan of his images. I am a photographer myself and the flaws and mistakes in photography have always attracted me. Also I find his obsession with collecting women disturbing.
“I find [Tichy’s] obsession with collecting women disturbing.”
We featured Wiissa on our site in the past. Could you tell us about this photo series?
As I live in Brazil I am well aware of that ‘70s Ipanema style of design. I love it, so when I saw Wiissa’s latest film I wanted to use some of that imagery in Subway. I am also a huge fan of knitted bikini’s and the Brazilian butt, so that was a sure shot for my poster idea. I think Wiissa are great in using images to provoke feelings and I strive for that with Subway as well. I hope that a specific page or image can make your heart beat just a little bit faster.
Tell us about the piece: “Save the Rainforest:” how did this project come about?
Every issue has a “How to…” section for something I know the reader will never do, like milking a cow or mixing concrete. But in this case, I thought, “What if somebody gets inspired and tries to make a small change? It would be great if a magazine could make just one person change his or her attitude and maybe even donate $10, right?” I think rainforests are just great.
What’s you favorite Woody Allen quote?
At this moment I have a 14 year old son—a full-throttle adolescent—so I’d go for, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”